Novel Excerpt: Katherine’s Arrival

If you have been reading this blog a long time, you might remember that I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2011. I posted a couple excerpts from my novel here, but I never finished the novel. I have recently resumed work on the novel, and I now have over 22,000 words. I am not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, but I thought I would share some of my more recent writing with you.

Background to this excerpt: After Dr. Andrew Smythe’s mother fled and his father went insane with grief and disappeared into the woods, Dr. Smythe decided to open a practice in Whitefish, Montana, so he could stay in the area and potentially help his father. There is so much work, Dr. Smythe has decided to hire an assistant. Unbeknownst to him, a woman doctor has come to apply for the position.

Dr. Katherine Watts asked the stationmaster where she could find the doctor’s office. ‘Straight down the street, take a right, cross the street. It’s across from the Methodist church. You can’t miss it,’ he said. In Katherine’s experience, when someone said, ‘you can’t miss it,’ you were sure to miss it, but to her surprise, she found it easily. There was a sign hanging outside the door. It said Dr Andrew Smythe, General Practice. She walked toward the low house, but before she reached the door, a woman pushed in front of her and walked inside, clutching her abdomen and moaning softly. She failed to close the door behind her, and Katherine could hear the doctor clearly.

“Why, Mrs. James, what seems to be the trouble? You were right as rain yesterday.”

“Well, Doctor, it hurts right here.” She seemed to indicate her lower right side.

“Hop up on the table here, Mrs. James. Let me examine you. And how long has it been this way?”

“Oh, I’ve been feeling poorly off and on for a week round my middle. But I felt well enough yesterday.” She smiled up at him. “But this morning I woke up to a sharp pain here.”

This was sounding serious. Katherine moved closer, into the doorway. Dr. Smythe was bent over the patient, palpating her.

He spoke gently to the patient. “Mrs. James, I think this is fairly serious. You have an inflammation here. Is your husband in town today?”

“No, yesterday was his last day down. He went up in the woods again today.”

“I wish he were in town. I’m going to need to operate.”

Operate here? Katherine looked around and was horrified. The woman was lying on a kitchen table, for heaven’s sake. And he had no assistant. He would need to use ether for sure. How was he planning on doing that?

Before she could think and stop herself, Katherine spoke up. “I can help. I’ll manage the ether.” The doctor looked at her cursorily, in her traveling pants and shirtwaist. Katherine didn’t believe in hampering herself with hoops.

He spoke curtly. “Do you know what you’re doing?”

Katherine responded just as curtly. “Yes, I trained in Boston.”

“Well, scrub up.” He thrust a pan of warm water at her. Swiftly, he scrubbed down the table, readied the ether, and Mrs. James, and the operation was underway.

It was as Katherine had feared. The woman’s appendix was terribly inflamed and on the point of bursting. It was touch and go occasionally but Dr Smythe knew what he was doing, and Mrs. James was eventually sewn up and transferred to the big bed in the other room to sleep off the ether.

Dr. Smythe spoke. “I assume you were here to interview as my assistant. You were an excellent help. You’re hired. I must go and speak to Mrs. James’s daughter. When I return, we can finalize the details of your employment.” He strode out the door before Katherine could answer him.

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